While the majority of the world (as represented by my Facebook feed) celebrates the landmark ruling in the US legalizing same-sex marriage, Kristen’s mother’s time in South Korea is coming to a close. Her first week here was filled with travel around the country, kayaking, and time together, the last one has been significantly more toned down. While love wins in America, responsibilities have won out in South Korea.
It has been a refreshing experience having Dalene with us on our adventure, even if it has only been for a short time. Her presence has helped us rediscover our urge to seek the small aspects of Korean life and culture that make it so different from that of our home country. Giving ourselves daily missions to show Dalene something new showed us how much there truly is to see and do within both Dongtan and Seoul itself. Dalene was initially blown away by the scale (particularly the vertical scale) of Dongtan, and was content to wander its streets in search of curiosities whilst we tried to keep children from running amok nearby. And then she went to Seoul for the first time.
We took her to Myeongdong, one of the major shopping capitals of Seoul. She was instantly entranced by the closeness of everything, how tiny shops could be filled to the brim with everything from jewelry to confectionery to dog couture. The smells of a host of Korean delicacies and street food mingled with the sound of people from every part of the world all reveling in the combination. And trying to find that cute shirt in a size greater than that of a small child. After this trip, Dalene returned to Seoul repeatedly, sometimes with us, but most often alone. She probably knows more about Seoul than we do at this point.
And that is the weird thing about travelling to another country to work, particularly if you are hermits like Kris and myself: most of the time, you don’t notice that you are on the opposite end of the world from where you grew up. You learn to live with the tanks of live crabs in the supermarket. You adapt to making pork cutlet your primary protein, and not beef. You find your comfort zone of going to work, coming home, spending the hard-earned time together within the confines of your own home, going to bed, and repeating. Occasionally you leave for frisbee or have friends over for board games or D&D. You don’t go outside much.
This is why, towards the end of Dalene’s time here, things calmed down. We showed her all of the things we felt she absolutely needed to see with us, and sent her on her own quests whilst we were at work. In the evening, we all came together, ate somewhere and something new, relaxed together, then went to bed. And repeated for most of this week. This hinted at our inevitable return to hermithood. However, it also helped our house to feel more like a home, with a live-in guest making it far more variable and vibrant.
We will miss Dalene tremendously, and Skype cannot ever fully equal having someone with you in person. We will cry when we see her off to the airport. But we will also remember the good times that we have had while she has been here, and smile. We will try to keep her energy with us, and go out and see something new from time to time. We will try escape the clutches of complacency and routine, and let our love of our new country win out.